Teens have always been notorious risk-takers. Still, it’s difficult for us to imagine our teenage daughters and sons setting out to sail alone around the world. Yet the world was discovered, conquered, settled, and populated largely by teenagers. And why not girls? There have always been women who took to the water, who made ships and boats their home, although history has largely downplayed their efforts and contributions. I’ve always thought there have been far more extraordinary women than we’ve ever heard about.
From Richard Spillman’s Old Salt Blog
One year ago, Laura Dekker, now 15, set sail on her attempt to sail around the world alone. If she continues at her current pace, she will be the youngest person to ever complete a solo circumnavigation. Perhaps the most interesting thing about her voyage is that setting records doesn’t seem to be the primary goal.
In May of last year Jessica Watson, 17, became the youngest person ever to circumnavigate non-stop after completing an 8 month marathon sail. Abby Sunderland attempted to replicate Watson’s accomplishment. In order to finish the sail, however, while still younger than Watson and thereby be able to claim the title of “youngest,” Sunderland had to sail late in the season and was dismasted in an Indian Ocean storm.
Laura Dekker’s voyage began with an extended court battle over whether or not the then 14 year old should be allowed to sail alone. Her actual sail, by contrast, has been relatively drama free. Last August, she sailed from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands, where she prudently waited out the hurricane season before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Rather than rounding Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, she transited the Panama Canal. After a leisurely sail across the Pacific she is now in the Coral Sea, bound for Darwin, Australia. To reach Darwin she must navigate the infamous reef-strewn Torres Strait between Papua New Guinea and Cape York Peninsula in northeast Australia. The last major passage of her trip will be across the Indian Ocean.
If Dekker completes her voyage and becomes the youngest to sail around the world alone, Jessica Watson will still hold the title of the “youngest non-stop circumnavigator.” Nevertheless, Laura Dekker’s voyage has never appeared to be about titles and records, in any case.